10 Feb 2013

Writing "Other Worlds" workshop

A few weeks ago, I went into a local high school and did a workshop with the Year 10 students about writing "Other Worlds". I thought I'd share some of the workshop here on our blog, as it can be helpful to all ages and stages of writing.

The first exercise was coming up with examples of other worlds.

EXERCISE #1: Come up with examples of Other Worlds you could write about. (10 minutes)
  • Fantasy worlds, set on other planets.
  • Fantasy worlds, set on our planet but in a different time (eg. Dark Ages).
  • Space; planets in other solar systems.
  • Worlds that exist on a layer beneath our own. Earth-based, alternate realities. Think: underground fairies/vampires/werewolves/etc.
  • The worlds in our own minds.
  • Dreamscapes.
  • Micro-biology. Worlds that exist in nature. Beneath the ocean, etc.
  • Other countries, exploring cultures that are different to our own.
There were some superb ideas and suggestions from the students—a lot of fantasy worlds, a lot of fairies and/or mythical creatures—and also some silly ones ("One Direction World" I'd been half-expecting. There was an "Ed Sheeran World" as well, which sounds kind of cool).

Once the students had chosen their favourite "Other World" I asked them to consider some of the rules those worlds would need to stop things getting unruly.

EXAMPLE: In the Harry Potter series, magic exists, but it is governed by the Ministry of Magic, which regulates who uses it, what type of magic they use, when and where they can use it, etc. If there were no magic laws, we would have a very big problem and things would quickly fall apart.

Consequences are massively important to how believable your worlds are. As above, if everyone could run around doing whatever they wanted, society would fall apart pretty fast. Everything you invent, every action your character takes, will have consequences. You don't need to get hung up on this, but just be aware, even if only at the back of your mind, that actions lead to consequences and you can't just ignore them. Consequences can also bring a great sense of tension to a story, so never be afraid to explore them or let them unfold and take the story in new directions.

EXAMPLE: Consider a world where people never grow old. What are the consequences to this type of society? What sorts of rules might you need to set in place to deal with them? (e.g. regulations of population/births, use of resources, harsher death sentences for crime, etc.)

Other things to consider:
  • Climate
  • Technology
  • Language
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Natural resources (fuel, etc.)
  • Social structure (class systems, governments)
I also introduced them to the idea of mind mapping to keep a story organised. I made a post about mind maps on the Storyslingers blog at the end of last year, which you can read here.

There's a possibility I'll do this workshop, adjusted for adults, at Storyslingers later this year. Keep an eye on our events page for more details.

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